Map highlighting the number of people moving to Philadelphia from towns in Puerto Rico post Hurricane Maria.
Concilio, a Ceiba member, is playing a prominent role. Concilio has served as the fiscal sponsor for Unidos PA’PR, the primary post-hurricane relief organization in Southeastern Pennsylvania weeks before Puerto Rico was lashed with sustained winds of 155 MPH on September 20, 2017 by Hurricane Maria. When Unidos PA'PR was formed it was organized to address the threat posed by Hurricane Irma, which grazed Puerto Rico on September 7, 2017, killed 12 people, and left a million people without electricity. As Unidos PA'PR worked to help the island, little did it know that a much greater threat, Hurricane Maria, the fifth strongest hurricane in US history, was to make a direct landfall on Puerto Rico.
To date, Unidos PA’PR has raised more than $335,000 to help hurricane victims. This money has been used to adopt 2,000 families in Puerto Rico and to provide water filters, tarps, lanterns, and mosquito nets among other things to families on the US island territory. Additionally, funds have been used to ship 8 million pounds of relief supplies to Puerto Rico.
The Norris Square Community Alliance (NSCA), a Ceiba member, raised over $3,600 for Unidos PA'PR and collected 50 palettes of food, water, and supplies. It dedicated its annual neighborhood festival in October to accept donations. NSCA staff also volunteered at the Unidos PA’PR warehouse to collect and transport relief materials to a central location where it was packed and shipped to Puerto Rico.
Esperanza, another Ceiba member, has seen over 45 Puerto Rican evacuee families at their housing counseling department in Eastern North Philadelphia to date. More than three months have passed since Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico yet most of the island (which is only slightly larger than Connecticut) is still without electricity, making this blackout the largest major power outage in US history. Without electricity and crucial amenities, many people are fleeing the island out of necessity. Many of them are coming to Pennsylvania. A recent report by the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College estimates that more than 56,000 Puerto Ricans are expected to evacuate to the Keystone State before 2019. Esperanza’s CareerLink assisted over 15 people from the island looking for employment in the last quarter of 2017. Seven of them found jobs so far. Esperanza college helped five Puerto Rican evacuee students continue their college studies in Philadelphia.
Ceiba's efforts on behalf of hurricane victims has been in the convening, coordination, and advocacy fronts. To date, within Unidos PA'PR, Ceiba helped to:
• Organize two well attended convenings of Philadelphia nonprofits in November
• Coordinate the work group structure of nonprofits interested in working together to serve Puerto Rico evacuees
• Work hand in hand with FEMA to produce two webinars on how to help people register with FEMA and secure information about their eligibility for disaster relief
• Design an infographic on Disaster Unemployment Assistance
• Plan Pop-Up Pro Bono FEMA Legal Clinics with the Hispanic Bar Association of PA and the Toll Public Interest Center of the University of Pennsylvania Law School
Ceiba's advocacy is focused on helping people in southeastern Pennsylvania and their Congressional delegation understand the depth of the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico and the needs of evacuees coming to the Keystone State. This includes:
• Making presentations at convening’s and conferences
• Meeting Congressional legislative staff in Washington DC
• Coordinating advocacy activities with national Puerto Rican organizations and think tanks
• Writing Op-eds
Much more work remains to help rebuild Puerto Rico and to assist hurricane evacuees coming to Pennsylvania. Ceiba and its member organizations look forward to continuing to work with other nonprofits and government agencies on these important matters in the coming months.